Saturday, 8 October 2011

Google Music Beta: plays for all, clouds for a few

Cloud storage service Google Music is available by invitation only while beta testing lasts, and only in the USA. But the matching music player is available for everybody everywhere outside the Android Market.

Google Music 4.0.1 can work as an offline music player, but not a very good one. Google Music sorts your music by the artist, album, title, and genre tags, and it reads (and syncs) your playlists too. Unfortunately it won't use the composer tag, and it ignores your folder structure. It displays album art, but not lyrics. It doesn't have an equaliser either. You can't send music to a play queue like you can do in WinAmp or PlayerPro, but you can work around this by making an on the fly playlist.

There are better offline music players for Android. What sets Google Music apart is its cloud storage service. By streaming your music from Google you can carry much more music with you than fits on your SD card: Google lets you store 20.000 songs on its servers. The cloud storage service is free while beta testing lasts, but may cost you later on.

Too bad that uploading your music to Google is really slow, and it won't work at all if you're outside the USA. Streaming music to your phone sucks your battery dry. If you'll be away from a power outlet for a while you're better off playing music from your memory card instead of letting it rain down from the cloud.

In addition to playing locally stored content and streaming from the cloud you can download your music back to your phone. Unfortunately Google renames your songs to cryptic file names like 1234.mp3, and it strips the mp3 tags away. As a result your cached music only works in Google's own player, not in other players like PlayerPro or WinAmp unless you rename and retag your files.

If you try to install the off market version of Google Music on top of a previous version your phone will probably refuse. If you already have an old copy of Google Music on your phone, make a backup, uninstall the old version, and then install the latest update.

Google Music Beta (Android Market)
Google Music 4.0.1 (Android Police)

If you're looking for a good free offline music player:

WinAmp (streams ShoutCast radio too)
MIUI Music 1.4.22 (this version supports mp3 tags and folders)

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